Welcome back to Bleeding Cool's continuing coverage of the CW's Supergirl season 4. This week's episode is the one episode that consistently airs late in the season that attempt to tie all the disparate storylines together. The enigmatic glimpses of Red Daughter. The anti-alien sentiment in the U.S. government. Lex's arrival on the scene. All we were missing in this episode was "J'onn wrestles with his violent inclinations" to have had a blackout on the season 4 Bingo! card.
How well did "The House of L" tie the season's story threads into a (Gordian) knot?
Supergirl s04e16 "The House of L": LEX LUTHOR CONTINUES TO WREAK HAVOC — In the wake of Lex Luthor's (guest star Jon Cryer) return, the show flashes back to what he's been doing for the last two years and how his secret machinations and plans have affected Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and Lena (Katie McGrath). Carl Seaton directed the episode written by Dana Horgan & Eric Carrasco.
As a framing device, using the story of Alexander the Great was fantastic. Like not-Kara, we assume that Lex views his father as Philip and himself as Alexander the Great. Alexander is his namesake, after all. The idea that he is grooming not-Kara to be his legacy was a welcome twist on the story and the associations with the historical figures, even though we know that Lex is lying through his teeth. His legacy, if Lex's plan plays out the way he envisions, will be stopping the threat posed by his pocket Kryptonian, likely with extreme prejudice.
It also feels redundant.
In this episode, we witnessed a metahuman-powered Lex in the power suit overcome Kara. Rather than go through all the manipulations and hoping that not-Kara keeps her cool and plays along (which she didn't aboard the U.S. warship) or that some other unforeseen wrinkle pops up, like… I don't know, Otis not killing the little Kaznian boy that not-Kara thinks is dead? Why not use Lena's serum to create super soldiers out of Lockwood's anti-alien cronies? It seems like we could have gotten to the same place more simply and elegantly, tying Lex's "super man" with the theme of human superiority over alien "invaders" that has been the focus of season 4. Lex should be about a simple, brutal, effective planning… not having a Rube Goldberg-like scheme going that is full of potential points of failure.
Alexander the Great was known for outside-the-box yet direct thinking. Lex's plans more closely resemble the famed Gordian knot than his namesake's slashing of said knot.
As a result, Red Daughter feels a bit underwhelming. Her origin is a bit strange – an asexually-produced offspring-sister from Kara, who retains few of Kara's important memories, or shadows of memories, and most of Kara's sympathies. In about 14 minutes, she went from Lex's student to wanting to be like Kara to swearing to destroy Kara. A foe of this magnitude – of the "you are your own worst enemy" variety – feels rushed and makes her come across as a very two-dimensional character. Had Red Daughter been the "big bad" on the season because of how she was raised and indoctrinated in Kaznia and had a real beef against the U.S. and it's hero who looks like her, then I feel she would be a more credible and fleshed out foe. Compared to the season-long menace of not-Barry as Savitar in The Flash season 3 – essentially the same theme – shoehorning Red Daughter into a single episode feels like a waste.
Which leads me to my final thought on the episode. Is it just me, or does it feel like the producers are playing fast and loose with time? Sure, I mean that from the above standpoint of "this feels rushed", but also like "wait, what happened when?" Four years ago Lex red sunned the city. Two years ago, Lex went to trial. Nine months ago this, six months ago that, five months ago, four, three, two, one…
I'm sure it makes logical sense, but again, it felt cramped and those major events didn't feel like they were given room to breathe.
● The Good: Power suit.
● The Bad: Lex's scheme is too convoluted and appears to diminish Red Daughter as a foil for Supergirl.
● The Ugly: The rushing and compressing of the timeline to try and fit months worth of convoluted scheming into a single episode. Not giving characters and events time and space to develop left them feeling, well, underdeveloped.
Supergirl airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT on CW, so make sure to join us next week for our look at the episode "All About Eve":
Supergirl s04e17 "All About Eve": SUPERGIRL FACES HER BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET — Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) must deal with the destructive aftermath of Lex's (guest star Jon Cryer) nefarious plans. Shocked at what Lex has created, Supergirl faces her biggest challenge yet. Ben Bray directed the episode with story by Gabriel Llanas and teleplay by Katie Rose Rogers & Brooke Pohl.
CW's Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Supergirl, Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Mehcad Brooks as James Olsen/Guardian, David Harewood as Hank Henshaw/J'onn J'onzz, Katie McGrath as Lena Luthor, Jesse Rath as Brainiac-5, Sam Witwer as Ben Lockwood/Agent Liberty, Nicole Maines as Nia Nal/Dreamer, and April Parker Jones as Colonel Lauren Haley. Greg Berlanti, Jessica Queller, Robert Rovner, and Sarah Schecter serve as executive producers.